The Lord – Forest Nocturne Review

Say what you will about Sunn O))), they are iconic. While the music is arguably the stuff to fall asleep standing to or hear in the laundry, the duo is the epitome of metal consistency. Nearly twenty-five years of droned-out, doomed-up, and heavy-as-fuck riffs later, and the duo is still kicking in slow motion. Member Greg Anderson, owner and proprietor of Southern Lord records, offers his own take on the low and slow with a new moniker The Lord, and debut album Forest Nocturne. Featuring gorgeous artwork and evocative song titles, there’s a world in store here.

While there are certainly hints of the dishwasher noises of the mother project, particularly in the penultimate tracks, The Lord is an odd concoction, inspired by film scores and Scandinavian death metal. Forest Nocturne is a beast of repetition and ambiance, highlighting menace and darkness with a multifaceted and strange crescendo. Ultimately, while the tracks can feel strung together and some more forgettable than others, Forest Nocturne‘s unique ability to conjure a soundscape so unique to The Lord‘s horrific whims with minimalist tendencies sets it a mark above the rest.

The Lord is firmly rooted in ambient music a la SleepResearch_Facility or Blood Box, relying on sprawling synths and organs to add a distinctly occult atmosphere to Forest Nocturne, enhanced by impressive use of motifs and repetition. While the stark plucking of “Theme,” for instance, is jarring in its nearly black metal rawness, it’s revisited in “Forest Wake,” which fleshes it out into a nearly death/doom riff dirge. “Lefthand Lullaby I” establishes creepy 6/8 electronic glitches above its squirming soundscape, which its second part then morphs into crushing monolithic riffs. Similarly, “Deciduous” relies on sprawling synths and ambiance, for “Old Growth” to meditatively morph it into the most Sunn O)))-like drone of the album, with lethargic riffs pairing with ominous bass piano. This all leads to death metal-flavored climax and resolution “Triumph of the Oak,” which features frequent Sunn O))) collaborator and Mayhem vocalist Attila Csihar’s formidable raspy growls atop thick doom riffs and plodding percussion – a stunning conclusion to a slow burn album.

For better and for worse in his pacing, Anderson’s songwriting is more concise than Sunn O))). Forest Nocturne clocks in at forty-one minutes, which, compared to hour-long escapades like Monoliths & Dimensions or Life Metal, should feel just right. For the most part it does, but passages in “Theme” or “Forest Wake” feel overlong in spite of relatively brief runtimes. Also, although the use of melodic motifs and the capitalization on slow-moving movements is intricately composed and smartly executed, Forest Nocturne is a crescendo that is far from immediate. “Theme” is an odd track with its repetitive plucking, then the next six tracks form a long-winded growth that climaxes with the raucous “Triumph of the Oak,” so it takes several listens to unearth the treasures of The Lord‘s songwriting. Finally, a nitpick in ambient music anyway, the separation of tracks like the “Lefthand Lullaby” duet or “Deciduous” and “Old Growth” is odd. While pairing these does a solid job establishing motifs in the first then capitalizing upon them in the second, two-minute ambient tracks are too short to be appropriately fleshed out.

At the end of the day, Forest Nocturne feels like a drone/death/ambient soundtrack for something like Robert Eggers’ movie The VVitch, founded in world-building natural soundscapes with a distinctly sinister edge. While borrowing from the drone-mother in crushing riffs, they feel more like natural progressions of the enveloping ambiance rather than the pedestal upon which the Sunn rests. The Lord simply utilizes a tasteful range of dreary moods and sinister motifs for an intricately composed yet impressively simple debut. It has its kinks to iron out, including some over-repetition and awkward song lengths, but this particular breed of cinematic death and drone metal-tinged sound is tastefully unique and tantalizingly opaque. Successfully setting himself up for future non-Sunn O))) success, Anderson offers an album that transcends genre trappings for an experience to be swallowed in.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: PCM
Label: Southern Lord Records
Releases Worldwide: April 23rd, 2022

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